The Sweet Smell Of Success

Thursday, April 24th, 2014 by Simon Morton

We like to keep an eye on the future and take a good look at things that might (or might not) shape how presentations evolve.

Our meanderings into technology have taken us to some interesting places, Google Glass has made an appearance, we’ve pondered the benefits of second screen, examined patent applications for immersive technology and ruminated over the prospects of 3D presenting.

Today I’ve spotted something else that might be appearing in presentations of the future – smells.

Smells are very interesting because they are so evocative, a smell can bring back memories and emotions in a way that few other sensory prompts can and that’s becoming more relevant than ever.

Making a connection with your audience has always been important, but it’s only recently that the importance of understanding why that connection might be emotional, rather than purely factual or visionary has come to light.

Trying to harness the power of smell is nothing new. Scratch and Sniff has been used sporadically in a wide variety of applications since the mid 1970’s (in fact some of us may never fully recover from our younger brothers Scratch and Sniff Garbage Pail sticker collection)but this is something quite different.

Scientist at Bristol University have been working on bubble technology and while this may sound like a fantastic way to disguise ‘being childish’ as ‘working’, it’s actually bringing some interesting communication concepts to life.

It works like this; bubbles containing smells (which can also have images projected onto them if you so desire) are created. The bubbles float into the audience and the smell is released when the bubbles burst. You can think of it as a quirky interactive bubble machine or give it its official title of ‘chrono-sensory mid-air display system’ either way the result is the same.

At the moment this has a delightfully gimmicky feel to it and I’m sure that there are advertising agencies and entertainment execs spinning cartwheels at the possibilities. But, just occasionally, the gimmick becomes the norm (remember how we laughed at people who thought carrying a house brick was more convenient than stopping at a phone box?) and because smells have the power to communicate differently this might just be one of them.

Bringing a new dimension to a presentation is a risky business (and one that should not be attempted at all without first making sure that the presentation itself is fit for purpose). But in an increasingly interactive world, where touch communication is an important part of our technology experience, maybe bubble popping is not as odd as it may seem.

While chrono-sensory bubbles may still be some way from being a useful addition to the presenters toolkit, there are other ways that you can make sure you connect emotionally with your audience. For Instance The Presentation Lab book has a chapter dedicated to this new area of presentation thinking and some great tips on identifying where emotional connection is important and guidance on how to achieve it.

How you approach building emotional connections with your audience is sure to be an area where fanciful ideas appear and disappear faster than this blogger can type, but the fact that those connections need to be made is not in doubt.

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